Prayer for the Dying

Prayer for the Dying

A Novel

Book - 1999
Average Rating:
6
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A Prayer for the Dying is Stewart O'Nan's most astounding achievement yet, a sunlit Gothic painted in shimmering prose that darkens the further you go into it, until, as in the best Poe and Flannery O'Connor, there is no turning back.Set in a leafy Wisconsin town just after the Civil War, A Prayer for the Dying opens harmlessly on a languid summer day; only slowly do events reveal themselves as sinister, blooming gently into a shared nightmare, as one neighbor after another succumbs to a creeping, always fatal disease. Our sole witness to this epidemic is Jacob Hansen, Friendship's sheriff, undertaker, and pastor. As the disease engulfs the town, Jacob must find a humane way to govern, as well as take care of his wife and baby daughter, though there seems no way to save those he loves short of calling a full quarantine and boarding up the sick in their houses. And what of the tramps slipping nightly through the tinder-dry woods, the spiritualists from the city camped on the edge of town with their charismatic leader Chase? Who-will bury the dead properly, if not Jacob?Dark, poetic, and chilling, A Prayer for the Dying asks if it's possible to be a good man in a time of madness. It confirms what some readers have known all along: Stewart O'Nan is not merely one of the best young novelists in America, but one of the finest novelists of our time.
Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Henry Holt : 1999
ISBN: 9780805061475
0805061479
Branch Call Number: FIC ONan
Characteristics: 195p

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SnoIsleLib_JenniferK Jul 20, 2017

The most terrifying book I have ever read.

s
stewstealth
Nov 08, 2016

Wonderful prose detracts from the spiraling predicaments the protagonist faces in this wonderful short novel. The author is quite a poet who can deliver a dark twist. Probably not for everyone but read it if you are interested.

j
janetplanet9
Sep 29, 2014

During a searingly hot, dry summer just after the Civil War a diphtheria epidemic and encroaching forest fire threaten to destroy Friendship,
Wisconsin. Can Jacob Hansen, sheriff, preacher, and undertaker save his town and family without losing his faith, his mind, his soul? O'Nan's brilliant novel is unlike any horror story you've ever read.

p
Pisinga
Jan 22, 2012

Book is very dark, heavy and difficult to read even horrible things about an epidemic are written with the poetic skill. But the main hero causes no sympathy, though he tries to do things correctly and with intentions to help others, forgetting about his own safety. But he follows the “written “rules and lows and not the lows of love and heart. And as they say: good intentions pave the road to hell.

l
Loritt
Jul 04, 2011

I found this book during a random search of the "O's" in the fiction section of the library. I'm ashamed to say I don't remember hearing of Stewart O'Nan until I picked this book up.
It's not for everyone. It is Gothic with a capital "G", but if that's your shot of rot-gut, then this is a book for you. The writing is stupendous.
This is the story of a Good Man (Jacob Hansen) caught in circumstances beyond his capacity to deal and the decisions he makes as a result. While this may be a familiar theme, this is far from a familiar story.
It begins slowly but as events spiral out of control and Jacob begins to run faster and faster to try to stay ahead of things, the written picks up and the reader goes faster and faster, and eventually down, with him. When I turned the last page, the outcome seemed inevitable. Pretty close to perfect.

kindred1 Apr 05, 2011

This is a great book. It is definitely not a light-hearted read, but if you liked Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy you will most likely enjoy this book. This is Wisconsin in the years following the Civil War. A small isolated town is ravaged by illness and fire. It is a very thoughtful and disturbing telling of a very realistic tale. In my mind's eye I could see the people, the land, and the town in sepia--like old photographs.

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